Question being answered
“If all of the world´s cultural heritage (sports, music,
fashion, architecture, literature, painting, etc..) was
contained in a time capsule, what would you
include to demonstrate the legacy of your country”
Created by: Camilo Alvarez Maya
Purpose: Application MBA- IE
It’s hard to encapsulate Colombia’s cultural heritage because the country is very culturally diverse.
Cities like Bogota, Medellin, Cali and Barranquilla have very different traditions and customs.
The country´s cultural diversity is a direct result of three main factors: 1. The Colonization process,
2. Topography and 3. Climate
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Colombia was colonized during the 16th century by Spanish conquistadores. During this time the
Europeans made first contact with Indigenous tribes that inhabited the country. As the
colonization process expand inland, the Spanish started to bring African slaves to help them with
arduous labor tasks.
During the exploration process, the Spanish established several commercial routes in order to extract
gold and other riches from inland Colombia and take them back to Spain. During this process, and due
to the complexity of the terrain, several isolated settlements were established, and this is how the first
Colombian cities began to grow.
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Throughout the following centuries, the different isolated settlements around the country started to
establish unique cultural traits. These traits were a direct result of the different cultural mix of
Indigenous groups, slaves and Europeans; as well as the different economic activities that were
established, depending on the climate and topography. This is why Colombian cuisine, music and
dance are so different and diverse.
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However, despite all of the cultural
differences, Colombian´s have one thing in
common: a love of life and happiness that is
present in our everyday lives. This is why – if
I had to choose something to encapsulate
Colombian culture – I would choose its most
important fairs and carnivals.
Annually Colombians celebrate multiple
carnivals and fairs. Each city has its own
unique fair, where distinct cultural traits and
traditions are featured. However, in every
celebration, it’s common to see ordinary
Colombians smiling because they are
having a great time.
In the following slides, we are going to
explore some of Colombia’s most important
The Barranquilla Carnival
This carnival is Colombia's most important folkloric events. The celebration takes place every year in
Barranquilla, for four days before Ash Wednesday. It is very representative of Colombian culture
because its events, dances and music – like la Cumbia, el Garabato and El Mapalé, are a merger of
Spanish, Indigenous and African traditions. This unique blend led to the creation of a Carnival like no
In 2003 the UNESCO declared the Carnival one of the Masterpieces of the oral and intangible heritage
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La Cumbia is one of Colombia´s most
traditional musical and dance styles created
in the colonial era. Its rhythm comes from
black slaves, its main instruments, maracas
and gaitas, come from the Indigenous
people, while the choreography and
costume from the Spanish.
El Mapalé is both a dance and a musical genre
originally created by the African slaves living close
to the Magdalena River shore. The dance
represents an erotic courtship between a male and
a female; the fast dance movements are intended
to replicate the movement of a fish when it is
removed from the water.
El Garabato is a traditional folkloric dance
that originated in Barranquilla, where its
members portray the differences between
life and death. This dance is always
accompanied by a music genre called
The Vallenato Legend Festival
This is one of the most important music festivals
in Colombia, featuring the country’s most popular
folkloric music genre: el Vallenato. The festival,
which is held every year in the month of April, was
created in 1968 in the city of Valledupar.
El Vallenato has its roots in Spanish and west
African rhythms; however its predominant sound
comes from the accordion. Other important
instruments include the Gaitaflute, a box drum
and a scratchy-sounding guacharaca percussion
instrument. The genre became very popular
because most of its songs tell stories about
ordinary people’s lives.
The Bambuco Pageant and Folkloric Festival
This festivity, which takes place every year in the city of Neiva during the months of June and
July, features the Bambuco. The celebration was born as a Spanish tradition during the 18th
century when locals celebrated obedience to the Spanish monarch and celebrated the Feast of
Saint Peter and Saint Paul.
Bambuco is a traditional music genre, which shares many similarities to the European waltz.
Sanjuanero is the most popular song representing the genre. In the beauty pageant, all the
contestants need to dance Sanjuanero, and the best dancer is chosen as the winner.
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The fair is held every year in the second week of January in the city of Manizales; it features two main
activities: the national coffee pageant and bull fighting. The celebration started in 1951 and was
created to resemble the Sevilla (Spain) festival.
Manizales is located in the heart of the coffee region, and its economy and culture have been forged by
this economic activity. During the pageant, the contestants visit traditional coffee plantations and
explore one of the most traditional coffee regions in the world.
Bull fighting is a tradition brought to Colombia by the Spanish. The corridas are events where one or
more bulls are fought by humans in a bull ring. This culture is very popular in Colombia.
The Manizales Fairs
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This event, which is held annually in
Villavicencio, was created in 1960 along with the
creation of the Department (State) of Meta. The
fair centers on Joropo and features important
elements of the Colombian eastern plains, like
cowboys (llaneros) and horses.
Joropo is a traditional Colombian dance and
musical genre. The dance resembles a waltz,
where couples face each other and make small
steps forwards and backwards. The music’s
main instruments include the arpa
llanera (harp) bandola (similar to a
mandolin) cuatro (a small guitar) and maracas.
International Joropo Tournament
The Cali Fair
The fair is held every year in between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day in Cali, Colombia’s third
largest city. In its origins the festivity resembled a Spanish bullfighting festival, with horse parades,
ballroom dancing and beauty pageants. Now the event has evolved into a carnival – like event featuring
salsa. Cali is known as the Colombian Salsa Capital, since it is heard and danced in every corner.
The fair’s main event is called Salsodromo, which is a mile – long carnival – like parade,
where hundreds of dancers walk though downtown Cali, dancing salsa. Colombian salsa is
a little different from other styles, since it is known to be faster and has a unique step (one
step forward, one step backwards).
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The Black and White Carnival
The carnival takes place every year in early January in the city of Pasto. The event is one of Colombia’s
most famous festivities recognized by the UNESCO. The celebration was formally established in 1912,
when several high – society men covered themselves with face powder and went through the streets
yelling “¡qué vivan los negros, qué vivan los blancos!” However, its roots date back to Colonial times
when African slaves rebelled against their master and declared a day of rest.
Today the carnival is a fun event filled with parades that celebrate Colombia’s multi-cultural diversity. The
most popular parades are: the period costumes parade that taken place on January 4th, the Black Day
parade on January 5th, when people cover themselves in black paint, and the White parade on January
6th, when people cover themselves with powder.
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The Flower Festival
The celebration is held every year, in the first
days of August in Medellin, the second largest
city in Colombia. The event, which was first
organized in 1957, is representative of the value
of the people of Antioquia (also known as
Paisas). The fair features flowers, since the city
is known as the City of Eternal Spring.
The Silletero Pageant is the festival’s main event;
it consists of a parade of farmers carrying huge
flower arrangements (silletas) on their backs.
This event is symbolic since it demonstrates an
old Paisa tradition from the early 20th century,
when peasants from nearby towns would bring
flowers into the city in wooden wagons.
Bogota is Colombia’s capital, and unlike the other regions, it doesn’t have a unique festivity or fair
celebrating regional traditions. The reason for this is because since the early years, the capital has
been a melting pot of different Colombian cultures, brought here by immigrants. Today Bogota is
home to more than eight million inhabitants who live a modern urban life, and who have a taste for
different types of celebrations and festivals. Two of the more popular celebrations held in the
capital include The Ibero-American Theater festival and Stereo Picnic.
The Ibero-American Theater Festival is the
world’s largest theater festival held every two
years. The event was founded in 1988 to
celebrate the city´s 450 year anniversary; it was
intended to be a cultural alternative that
promoted theatrical diversity. In the 2016
edition, the event hosted 855 productions across
more than 100 venues, with participants from all
over the world.
Stereo Picnic is a modern musical festival held
annually in Bogota. The event is a multi-day
festival that resembles Lollapalooza and other
European – style festivals. The goal of the
Festival is to bring first – class artists to the
country, to satisfy Colombians’ growing taste for
new musical genres such as: alternative rock,
indie music, punk rock, Reggae, electronic
music and Hip Hop.